How much does it cost to travel the world? (Cheapest possible backpacking budget)
I must have googled this 100 times before I first set off traveling way back in 2006 and only now, 15 years and now, having TRAVELED TO every country in the world later, do I feeling truly qualified to answer it categorically. The answer to the question ‘How much does it cost to travel the world?’ is reassuringly simple. Not as much as you think. As long as your willing to make a few sacrifices, that is.
I’ll assume that because you’ve been googling “How much does it cost to travel the world” that you mean how much is the CHEAPEST COST to travel the world, right? For me, for example, when I first started to travel around the world, I was teaching English in Thailand for $700 a month, so I was broke. Because of that, the first few countries i backpacked in were Bangladesh, India, Nepal etc. There were among the cheapest countries in the world to travel in, so it made sense. I survived on about $7 a day! But that was rough.
As I got older, I set my mind on being the first Irish person to visit every country in the world, and that ended up taking me over 10 years, and costing over $250k. So the costs escalated as I went to more obscure places (hello Somalia, Yemen, cargo ships etc).
But if you don’t care about ticking off all 197 countries, and you just WANT TO TRAVEL. Then how much does it cost to travel the world? For 3 months, 6 months? The short answer? You can just about squeeze by for $1k a month if you choose the right countries. Read on to see which countries, and how?!
Table of contents
- How much does it cost to travel the world? (Cheapest possible backpacking budget)
- How much to travel the world for 6 months?
- Your Daily Budget:
- SO. How much does it cost to travel the world? $7k for 6 months?
- Wait. Really? $1k a month?
- Super broke travel?
How much to travel the world for 6 months?
I know, I know, you want cold hard figures. So let’s presume you want to know the cost to travel the world for 6 months. So I’m going to try to give a quantified answer in the most rudimentary way possible for one sample gap year trip.
The Standard backpacking Route. Gap year for $30 a day?
Let’s talk about the budget for a regular 6-month trip, leaving from Europe going to Southeast Asia for 4 months, Australia and Fiji for 1 month and the US for 1 month. This is the standard gap-year trip taken by 20-somethings. Please note, you can travel cheaper than this by choosing cheaper countries for sure. Check out the CHEAPEST countries to travel in HERE.
Round the world airfare? Or not?
The biggest cost on these types of trips is the airfare. That presents another question about whether to buy a Round-the-world (RTW) airfare ticket or not. What is a RTW (round-the-world) airfare? It’s essentially a multi-leg plane ticket. Rather than flying from London or New York to Bangkok, and then back from Bangkok to London or New York, you buy one large ticket. From London, to Delhi, to Bangkok, to Singapore, to Sydney, to Hawaii, to LA, and then back to London.
The benefits of a RTW ticket?
You pay one up-front cost and then you don’t have to worry about any of your major transport costs for the rest of your travel experience. It also works out a little cheaper than booking each leg individually.
The drawbacks of a RTW ticket?
The lack of flexibility. The beauty of traveling around the world is the sheer fun and freedom. But with a RTW ticket, you know you have to be in Bangkok by July 2st, Sydney by end of August etc. It removes a lot of the romance. What if you want to stay somewhere longer? Or skip a destination? With a RTW ticket, you’re locked in.
While of course you CAN change the dates of each leg for a fee, if you start doing that you lose the benefit of the cheaper price in the first place.
So, Should you buy a RTW ticket?
For me? Nope. The bit of money you save isn’t worth the freedom it steals from you. Besides, when you think about How much does it cost to travel the world then the cheapest way to do so is to stay in one region/continent and fly locally. For example, stay in Asia and hop from Thailand to Malaysia, to India, to Singapore or local (cheap!) airlines. If you start hopping continents, it costs A LOT more to travel the world!
6 month backpacking budget tally
Other than the flight cost, you can squeeze by on an average of $30 or so IF you’re careful.
Wherever you go, it pays off to do some research. Usually, even major attractions offer discounts online. The budget tends to break down to something like this:
TOTAL COST FOR A BUDGET 6 MONTH TRIP: $7,000USD
NOTE: So you can knock $1k off that if you remove your RTW airfare and stay in one region.
Let’s have a look at these individually.
Lots of companies (STA travel, virgin etc) offer very competitive RTW tickets. Prices normally start at around $900. They then increase as you add flights and continents to your itinerary. Generally speaking, a 5 flight 3 continent trip can be found for around $1000 if you search hard enough. You certainly should never pay more than $1500.
Personally, I love to be free when I travel so I don’t book RTW tickets. I prefer to spend a couple of hundred dollars extra each time BUT I can fly when I want. Or where I want.
Also, if you collect air miles, you can wipe this fee off entirely! Check out how air miles work here, and the best credit card for UK miles here. That’s how I wrote my Emirates First Class review and Gulf Air business class review etc.
I’m not going to endorse any travel insurance company that makes you pay hundreds of dollars up front. Rest assured quality cover is available for less than $300 for 6 months. I personally use THESE GUYS for my digital nomad insurance. Read my review here, I use them for my digital nomad insurance.
And I use THESE guys for my normal travel insurance.
Depending on the countries you plan to go to a 6-month trip should cost between $100-$200 for visa fees.
If China or Vietnam is on your itinerary remember they don’t offer visas on arrival (i.e you can’t arrive at the border and get stamped in). So you have to arrange that in advance, although you can do this during your trip at a neighbouring country. For example, I got my Chinese visa in Bangkok, Thailand.
Check out my post on things to bring when you pack. You shouldn’t have any need to spend more than $200 on all your stuff though. Unless you need a new backpack, they can cost a little more.
Your Daily Budget:
Here’s the big one. The one that the success of your entire trip hinges on. Asia requires around $20 a day IF you eat street food, share rooms etc. As you move back to Western society, you have to watch your wallet a lot closer.
If you do that and maintain a frugal mindset (this means drinking local booze when available, like 4 litres of cask wine/goon in Australia for $8 a box or eating sub of the day instead of your meatball marinara) then $40 is just-about manageable.
All-in-all, you can squeeze by on a backpacker budget for an average of $30 a day IF you don’t fly between continents, and if you share rooms, and if you use supermarkets for food.
SO. How much does it cost to travel the world? $7k for 6 months?
Ok, if you’re open to backpacking. Open to long bus journeys, and super market delis. If you’re finishing high school, graduating from uni or simply taking a career break this is the answer you’ve been looking for. If you’re happy to:
- Sleep in dorm-rooms in hostels
- Eat in supermarkets
- Steer clear of 1st world countries for the most part
- Don’t fly too much
You need about $7,000 USD for a 6-month break
Please remember that $7k, 6 month trip won’t be comfortable in a traditional sense. But it’ll be epic. It’ll be wild. You’ll meet people and do things you only dreamt about. Being young is all about these kind of experiences. Now, in my late 30s, there is no way I could stick to a budget like that. But 18-35? Sure, go for it. And drink up every second!
Wait. Really? $1k a month?
On a standard backpacking trip? It’s just about possible. But those drunken nights out in Thailand, or those epic bucket list experiences in South East Asia, they can quickly blow your budget. If you’re broke and you want to travel, if you’re dreaming of traveling for 1 year plus, then what?
Super broke travel?
I got by on $300 to $500 a month during my first few travels traveling. And that came down to 2 things. Yhe level of discomfort I was willing to suffer, and the countries I chose to travel in. If you too want to really travel, you can do the same. Check out the cheapest countries to visit in the world here. But if you can’t be bothered to click on the blog post, aim to travel in these countries if you want to squeeze by on $500 a month!
- Sri Lanka
Save up and set off. Happy travels guys!!
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